Time India get their T20 act together

Nov 11, 2022 04:16 PM IST

Overhaul the batting, giving more responsibility to Surya, Pandya and Bumrah the right way ahead

A fair bit of retrospection and a lot of course correction is the need of the hour after India yet again failed to cross the semi-final barrier of the T20 World Cup. For the better part of the last year, India gave the idea they were looking to play fearless cricket. It showed as well in their Powerplay run rate of 8.67, the best among all teams during the period between the two World Cups.

India's Captain Rohit Sharma (L) escorts his team off the field after their loss during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2022 semi-final cricket match between England and India at The Adelaide Oval on November 10, 2022 in Adelaide. (Photo by Surjeet YADAV / AFP) / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE(AFP) PREMIUM
India's Captain Rohit Sharma (L) escorts his team off the field after their loss during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2022 semi-final cricket match between England and India at The Adelaide Oval on November 10, 2022 in Adelaide. (Photo by Surjeet YADAV / AFP) / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE(AFP)

But all that planning and talk went up in air the moment India landed in Australia. In conditions that aided seam, swing and pace, India decided to play with more caution. Batting coach Vikram Rathour even said these pitches were not going to produce 200 runs just because there weren’t enough high scores till then. The only reason India managed to post above-180 scores was because of their hitting in the slog overs. Powerplays were not viewed as a suitable time to go on attack. Instead, India relied on one of the top three to hold anchor and eyed the last 8-10 overs.

It was definitely how the tournament was panning out for most teams but England showed in the semi-final how sticking to their strengths can still work out. England believe in unabashed batting irrespective of conditions. And they did exactly that when the occasion called for. This humbling may be the right trigger for a long-due overhaul of the India team while they try to improve on the biggest takeaways from this tournament.

Give Pandya the captaincy

It’s fairly apparent now that Hardik Pandya brings a much more positive vibe to the team, be it in batting or bowling. But the more crucial point is how he steered Gujarat Titans from a low-key start to winning the IPL this season. Rohit Sharma, though an astute leader, is 35. Pandya is 29. He has ideas, he wants to take responsibility, there is a latent desire to bat higher in the order (something he has already done, with a fair degree of success, at Gujarat Titans), he can take wickets and he is also a proven finisher. Since he has been already chosen to lead the T20 team in New Zealand, this could be the right time to make this white-ball setup a long-term project for him.

Put SKY in charge of batting core

However they might try to portray it, the failure of Rohit Sharma to get going in this World Cup has meant India have three similar batters with less-than-desirable strike rates at the top. It’s time to change that. Dig deep, look at the IPL squads. Give Sanju Samson—who finished this IPL with a strike rate of 146—a long rope as opener with Rishabh Pant as his partner. Deepak Hooda needs more chances. Try Prithvi Shaw as well.

Leading this change should be Suryakumar Yadav, the best batter of the tournament till Alex Hales and Jos Buttler changed that notion a bit on Thursday. No one walks the talk of batting fearlessly better than Yadav. And with the next T20 World Cup set to be held in two years, there is enough time to forge a seriously brave batting core around him.

More bowling options

Jasprit Bumrah is the undisputed T20 specialist but the bowling must be infused with more pace options like Umran Malik. At the same time, batters need to bowl more. India can’t afford to have a top-order full of batters who refuse to bowl. At any point in time, England have Liam Livingston, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali to complement Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Chris Jordan. Both Curran and Jordan are useful scorers, adding more depth to the England batting.

India need to aim for something similar. Pandya can’t bowl four overs all the time so they have to keep at least another bowler apart from Hooda—who bowls decent off-breaks—as backup.

Play in overseas leagues

Probably the most difficult change, considering how the BCCI might think this could lead to a player exodus. But a middle path too could be achieved by handling No-objection Certificate (NOC) requests on a case-to-case basis. It’s like allowing Cheteshwar Pujara to play County cricket, only in a different format. While others play the IPL and use that knowledge during internationals in India, Indians seem to be missing out on that edge.

The best interests of the team and international schedule must be respected but if there is an August window where some players could play The Hundred without compromising on their international duties, then why not? The good thing is there are several franchise leagues available. The Hundred and the Caribbean Premier League normally happen in July-August-September when India could allow a few players just before they go on tours of England or West Indies. Similarly, some could be allowed to play a part of the Big Bash (happens in December-January) just before India’s white-ball tour of Australia. Even if they aren’t able to play the entire duration, Indian players will always be in demand in these leagues.

Separate coaching staff?

England have gone this way and are reaping benefits. For a long time now, India have not wanted to hire a non-Indian coach. But T20 cricket is a global game now and language barriers have long been bridged. It’s about time India get to share and imbibe ideas from leading T20 experts and data analysts of the world.

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    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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